Understanding recreational fishers and their attitudes to conservation in Western Australia

Ms Asha McNeill1, Dr Julian Clifton1,2, Professor Euan Harvey3

1University Of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, 2University of Chester, Chester, United Kingdom, 3Curtin University, Bentley, Australia


To address declining marine ecosystem health and biodiversity, governing bodies must employ policy to prevent harmful or damaging activities while maintaining a sustainable level of access for communities. Consequently, users who may have previously had access to marine resources may find restrictions on their activities, which includes individuals who fish for recreation. Recreational fishers are a key stakeholder group to consider in Western Australia, amounting to approximately 700,000 individuals in a population of 2.6 million. While stakeholder support for regulations is key to achieving success, various constraints serve to constrain recreational fishers effective participation in, and contribution to, marine policy planning processes, despite the disproportionate impact of regulations on their activities. An internet-based survey of 588 recreational fishers across WA was employed to assess fishers’ attitudes towards marine conservation and management tools. The survey was designed to collect information on fisher avidity, catch orientation and motivations in addition to attitudes toward management including marine parks, fisheries management tools and the government agencies responsible for them. Results show that recreational fishers are a diverse stakeholder group who are likely to be impacted in a variety of ways by marine policy. Responses also reveal the recreational fishing community are very supportive of the regulations used to manage their activities, while distrust is evident towards the state government agencies which regulate them. Together these results demonstrate the need to bridge the gap between the community and the management institutions and outlines opportunities to engage with recreational fishers in the future.


Asha McNeill is currently in the final stages of completing her PhD at the University of Western Australia. Her research is interested in community perceptions of fisheries management and marine parks policy.

Tidal Treasures of the Tamar: Community Saltmarsh Monitoring in Northern Tasmania

Miss Megan Dykman1, Mr Vishnu Prahalad2

1NRM North, Launceston, Australia, 2University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


A nationally listed threatened community, Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh plays many vital ecological roles, including providing habitat to unique and diverse assemblages of birds and plants, acting as a coastal buffer and capturing carbon. However, our limited understanding and appreciation of saltmarsh ecosystems has contributed to their mismanagement, with over half of Tasmanian saltmarshes estimated to have already been lost or degraded.

The Tamar River estuary in northern Tasmania is home to approximately 86 ha of saltmarsh, all within 45 minutes of the city of Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest population centre.

Now in its third year, the Tamar Saltmarsh Monitoring Program has facilitated the involvement of community members in surveying and documenting the natural values of the Tamar River estuary saltmarshes, along with the human impacts they face. This program is part of a state-wide effort to better map, monitor and manage Tasmanian saltmarsh ecosystems. Along with collecting valuable data on the bird and plant inhabitants of saltmarshes, the surveys have raised the profile of these ecosystems among the local community and pinpointed key areas for improved management. Many survey volunteers had previously never stepped foot in a saltmarsh and, through their involvement in the program, have built knowledge, awareness and deeper connections with their local environment. We hope that the successes, challenges and lessons learnt from this program will inform and inspire other similar programs and contribute to the conservation of this valuable and vulnerable ecosystem.


Megan studied a Bachelor of Applied Science: Marine Environment at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Launceston. Megan’s Honours project involved a benthic survey of the rocky reef communities of the lower Tamar River estuary and a taxonomic investigation of their octocoral inhabitants. Megan’s role as a facilitator at NRM North involves working closely with the community, smallholders and other stakeholders to facilitate their involvement in NRM activities. Megan coordinates the Tamar Saltmarsh Monitoring Program and is involved in water quality monitoring in the Tamar River estuary.

Is there a case to be made for repairing our coastal saltmarsh wetlands through quantifying itinerant fish use?

Mr Vishnu Prahalad1, Ms Violet Harrison-Day, Dr Peter McQuillan

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


Saltmarshes of temperate and subtropical Australia are listed as an endangered ecological community under the Australian Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to highlight their historic and ongoing loss and degradation. In the context of Tasmania, loss and degradation of saltmarshes has occurred most extensively in the north-west part of the State, in the Circular Head region. Previous management interventions focussed heavily on conserving shorebirds and had struggled to raise the profile of saltmarshes among the local community and decision makers. Fish use of saltmarshes has not been a major focus of efforts to conserve and repair saltmarshes, due in part to the lack of documented studies. While the importance of saltmarshes is being recognised for a range of factors, fish remain a compelling subject with broad resonance. Improving our understanding of fish use of saltmarshes could raise much needed public awareness and material support for saltmarsh rehabilitation. Our aim is to document fish use of the saltmarshes in the Circular Head area by addressing the following questions: (1) what is the diversity and density of fish in the saltmarshes of our study area during our sampling season? (2) are there any observable patterns of fish use relative to sampling location, tide cycle, water depth, diel time, temperature and salinity? (3) is there difference in fish use between saltmarshes of varying condition? and, (4) what are implications for management and further research?


Vishnu Prahalad has worked on saltmarsh ecology and management in Tasmania for close to ten years, closely collaborating with a range of government and non-government agencies and local groups. His publications include ‘a field guide to the plants of Tasmanian saltmarsh wetlands’, atlases for saltmarshes for all three regions of Tasmania and the ‘saltmarsh matters’ citizen science app and several other science communication materials.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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